WiFi in Italy

How to find WiFi hotspots—free and otherwise—while traveling

Catching a stray WiFi signal by a canal in Venice Your intrepid reporter Skypes home using a stray WiFi signal by a canal in Venice.Many hotels these days offer WiFi—some for free, others for a modest fee. But WiFi floats around elsewhere in Italy as well.

Travel telecom—email, web surfing, Skyping, even making VoIP telephone calls—can be free if you know how to find these floating, free-range WiFi hotspots.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that they are much harder to find these days than they once were. Thanks to an asinine Italian law requiring all Internet users to register every single online session using their passport numbers as I.D., the majority of Italian networks are now password protected.

I don't blame them; it is for their own self-preservation. Both you and they would get fined if it was discovered that you were using their Internet connection without first registering your ID.

(This law was instituted to help "the fight against terrorism" but in reality was nothing more than a political power grab to allow the government to spy on everyone. » more )

There is, however, still WiFi to be found in Italy—if you can hunt it well enough.

Carry your own WiFi

The easiest alternative: Carry a portable WiFi hotspot that will provide Internet access for up to five devices (or a 3G modem to plug into your laptop's USB port).

Prices to rent a portable WiFi hostpot for Italy from Cellularabroad.com start at $14.95 per day—less if you rent for longer than two weeks)—with unlimited data. (Shipping of the device adds $13 to $40, depending on how fast you need it.)

(Note that if you manage to burn through 10GB, your speed drops from 3G to 2G; for the record: 10GB is equal to 2.5 million text e-mails, or 100,000 web pages, or 5,000 minutes of audio streaming.)

(You can also get a multi-country portable WiFi hostpot for $8.95 per day—less if you rent for longer than two weeks) plus shipping and a flat $29 for 100MB of data (or $59 for 250MB, $99 for 500MB, $149 for 1GB) from Cellularabroad.com.

Other rental outfits have slightly different pricing models. You can also rent a mutli-country portable WiFi hospot with unlimited data for $17–$19 per day from Xcomglobal.com or Telecomsquare.co.jp/us.

(Note that those prices I quote are the actual fees you'll pay, including fine print items like the $3.95 daily insurance fee both companies charge; They also both charge $30 shipping fee. Additionally, Xcomglobal adds a flat $30 "multi-country" fee if you plan to visit more than two countries.)

Alternately, you can rent a 3G modem that will work in Italy from Telestial.com.

Find WiFi hotspots

Here are some resources to help you find both paid and free WiFi hotspots in Italy:

Using a signal at an Italian pub, this travel writer can get plenty of work done without having to sequester himself in his hotel room. Using a signal at an Italian pub, this travel writer can get plenty of work done without having to sequester himself in his hotel room.

Paid WiFi hotpsot services

These are those services that, for a one-time or monthly fee, allow you to use their hotspots, which are typically scattered around airports, rail stations, and stores (both chain and non).

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